THE FRENCH THING
Tall, dressed head-to-toe in black, with dark brown hair and a hint of a French accent, Marlene Huissoud is, to my mind, the typical French woman. She decided to start her career in fashion by designing scarves – the quintessential accessory of every fashionable French woman. We sat down with Marlene, while she was busy preparing her show for the annual Central Saint Martins degree show, to learn a bit more about her and her work.
Briefly introduce yourself to our readers!
I am Marlene, a French designer based in London. I moved to Lyon for my BA, where I discovered silk production – Lyon was very famous for its silk during the 19th century. Then I decided to challenge myself, so I moved to London to pursue a MA at Central Saint Martins. I work in a variety of different areas – from fashion to art – and with a variety of mediums – from products to textiles.
How has living in London affected your current work?
I moved to London to do my MA at Central Saint Martins, because it seemed very experimental and free compared to the French education. At the end of the day, the school is more a pretext; if you want to express something, you could do it everywhere. London has this crazy energy, specifically for the creative industry, which is very important when you design.
How was your show at the Central Saint Martins degree show?
Receiving an amazing feedback after one year completely immersed in the project was an incredible experience, but I am exhausted! The show was always very busy, and I would recommend to all future graduates to stay as much as they can at their exhibition spaces, because it is there that you meet amazing people.
What is the main inspiration behind your work?
I would say the new wave of experimental designers, for whom the process is a footprint of the design aesthetic. I really like the work of the Studio Glithero, Patternity and Studio Formafantasma. The product for me is a way to communicate, to get people involved about this kind of obsessive process; it is a kind of pretext to present your work to a large audience. But the final outcome is a small part of the process.
What is the process you follow from coming up with an idea for a product to its final implementation?
My pieces are all born from an A3 drawing, which is part from a series of automatic drawings all done by hand with a simple pen. When I start a drawing, nothing is really determined in advance, except the A3 format of the paper, and nothing is predictable, because the time frame of each piece is between 20-30 hours. With the repetition of my movements, I eventually start to loose control of the drawing and this is what pretty much leads to the final creation of a design.
Could you elaborate on the fact that sometimes you design with your eyes closed?
When I start creating the designs for the scarves, I want to bring an innocent touch to the aesthetic, so if I have to use digital software, I will choose only one tool and apply some effects with eyes closed.
Is there an interesting story behind a particular design?
They all have specific stories, as the process is really long. I focus on one piece at a time. All scarves are born from a long journey, kind of compulsive, where I reproduce the same little geometric shape. I can feel an amazing excitement, when it is the last line of the A3 drawings!
Will you experiment with new materials for the AW season?
Yes, I will. I want to travel to Tokyo later this year and start making new fashion pieces, not scarves specifically. I cannot tell you more for the moment, but I am really excited about this new project.
Which is the most flattering way anyone can wear your scarves?
Some of my customers frame the scarves for their interiors and I think it is flattering to want this design on their walls. I see the scarf as a medium; a customer buys a scarf not necessarily because they like not to wear it, but to express something else with it.
What are your future plans?
I have to sit down for a week, at least, and take the time to map the next months. I am developing some projects at the moment that are more product-design based and I really enjoy it. I would like to work in a larger scale, with installations, window displays and furniture pieces. My latest project is called “From Insects” and it explores the viability to use insect materials in the design process. It has received attention for future collaborations, commissions and exhibitions in Europe. My sample research work is exhibited at the Scin Gallery in London until October, and the project will also be presented during the London Design Week in September.
The images are from Marlene’s Automatic Collection. All images courtesy of Marlene Huissoud